"Chinese Laundry Kids," CBC Radio documentary

Monday, April 18, 2011  
Chinese hand laundries used to be a fixture in every town and city. They were so common place that the occupation of "laundryman" became synonymous with the Chinese. They were socially isolated, and endured a life of drudgery and racial hostility. CBC producer Yvonne Gall explores the legacy of these Chinese pioneers through the stories of the children who grew up in their parents' laundries.

chinese-laundry-1881.jpgWhy did so many Chinese immigrants turn to owning and operating laundries? 

They were first enticed to North America by the gold rush of the mid 1800's and were later hired to build the railways in both Canada and the United States. But when the gold rush ended and the railways built, the Chinese immigrants were no longer wanted. They were socially isolated and struggled to deal with a growing tide of racism. They gravitated to jobs shunned by the white community, jobs like washing clothes. But hostility and racism persisted and was often expressed in violence and sanctioned by law.

Despite these obstacles, the Chinese laundryman persevered and they endured so that their children would have a better life. 

Reading List

Chinese Laundries:Tickets to Survival On Gold Mountain by John Jung. Published by Yin and Yang Press, 2007. 

Southern Fried Rice: Life in a Chinese Laundry in the Deep South by John Jung. Published by Yin and Yang Press, 2005. 

The Year of Finding Memory 
by Judy Fong Bates. Published by Random House Canada, 2010. 

China Dog and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry by Judy Fong Bates. Published by Sister Vision, 1997. 

Enduring Hardship: the Chinese Laundry in Canada by Ban Seng Hoe. Published by Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2003. 

The Chinese Laundryman: A Study of Social Isolation by Paul C. P. Siu. Published by New York University Press, 1987. 

A White Man's Province: British Columbia Politicians and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants 1858-1914 by Patricia E. Roy. Published by University of British Columbia Press, 1989. 

The Oriental Question by Patricia E. Roy. University of British Columbia Press, 2003. 

Chinese Islanders: Making a Home in the New World, by Hung-Min Chiang. Published by Island Studies Press. Charlottetown, 2006.

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